MARGARET MacPherson, 94, was a classic example of how a life that seems destined to take off in one direction may eventually be lived in a very different way.

Known throughout the Highlands and islands as the First Lady of Crofting, she had a start in life that was very far from the lot of an active crofter and Labour county councillor at Torvaig in Skye.

Margaret's father, Dr Norman Maclean, was a kirk minister in Edinburgh. He occupied the pulpit at St Cuthbert's in the city centre - a prestigious charge. ''We were comfortably off, we had three servants, and it was a rich parish,'' she recalled in an interview 10 years ago. ''We were privileged people. My father put my two sisters through medicine studies without grants. I went to a private school and thought state schools were just beneath contempt.''

It was a disagreement with her father on the suitability of her chosen suitor that pitched Margaret into a situation where she was disowned by the family for opting to marry beneath her station.

Her father had come from the Braes area of Skye and still maintained the family home as a holiday house. Up the road was a family

of MacPhersons. The second son, Duncan, was a seaman, but on

visits home he struck up a friendship with Margaret.

Her father took exception to the friendship and banned Margaret from further visits to Skye. She had to stay in Edinburgh studying Latin for university entrance and was then sent to school in Switzerland for nine months.

Her father was on a six-month visit to Australia when she returned to Scotland and the friendship with Duncan was resumed. On the day she graduated from Edinburgh university she travelled through from Edinburgh to Glasgow and married Duncan MacPherson.

Parental reaction was swift. ''My father cut me off and never talked to me again for marrying beneath myself. I saw him on his deathbed, but he didn't know me then.''

Margaret and her husband moved to Skye and many years of hardship. Finally, the couple leased a farm from the Forestry Commission in a remote part of Skye and spent 10 years raising cattle and sons - seven in all. Later they moved to Torvaig, just above Portree.

Margaret's life in public service got under way in 1945 when she successfully challenged Sir Godfrey Fell, who had been co-opted on to Inverness County Council to represent Portree. Her time on the council changed her from a Liberal to Labour - a consequence, she said, of seeing at first hand how the local lairds were running things. She assumed office as secretary of the Skye branch of the Labour Party, became a CND activist, and joined the Skye Peace Centre.

She was a renowned campaigner on behalf of the people of Skye. She believed there was a sound case for nationalising all the estates - any landholding of more than 3000 acres. She sat on the Taylor commission which examined the structure of crofting in the early 1950s and recommended the establishment of the crofters' commission. She was disappointed, however, when that body failed to live up to her expectations.

Plans had been drawn up for Vaternish in Skye, involving amalgamations and the re-organisation of the whole estate. ''The commission did a lot of work on this. The proposals were approved by the Department of Agriculture. When it went up to the Treasury they said 'no' and the commission then did nothing.''

Margaret also developed a talent for writing. The Shinty Boys was published in 1963, after

initial rejection, and six other books followed.

Her funeral will take place today at Portree Church of Scotland.